birding

24May

Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse

The way Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus) breed, is more like a song and dance performance than it is a breeding. Early in the morning both males and females visit the strutting grounds which are referred to as the lek. While sounds of hums, rattles, clicks and chirps ring through the crisp morning air their impressive dance routine ensues. The colorful males spread their wings and rapidly beat their feet chirping, and running in circles. The females or hens observe, and wait until a male proves he is worthy. The proving involves more than just a dance.

Violent sparring occurs as the grouse viciously peck and spur each other in between their dance offs. The quarrels and dancing are supplemented by long-lasting face offs. The birds crouch down face to face chirping at one another waiting for the other to make his move. The entire spectacle is quite the theatrical display, which is why the CDOW’s video production crew decided it was a must for Columbian Sharp-tailed grouse to star in the next episode of a.m. Colorado:



It is said that the birds visit the same exact location year after year. This is interesting because a lot of mining, drilling, and expansion has dispersed them from their historic range. The lek in this video is a restored lek, the process in which a mine is reclaimed back into its native forage and into a lek seems to work based on this energy company’s study in Montana (It says they used electronic calls to lure the grouse back to the lek)

More info:
Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse’s Current and Historic range
Avian Web Species Profile
Interesting Article by Summit Daily News (Blue Valley Ranch is where the grouse in the above video were released)